Seamus Heaney


Seamus Heaney (2004)

by Tai-Shan Schierenberg

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) was a much-loved member of the academic staff here at Queen’s, as well as being one of the greatest poets of our age.  

Heaney was brought up on a farm between the townlands of Toomebridge and Castledawson. The eldest of nine children, he attended the local school at Anahorish and then boarded at St Columb's College in Derry. He graduated with a first class honours degree in English Language and Literature from Queen's University Belfast in 1961. After a year as a postgraduate at St Joseph's College in Belfast, followed by a period of teaching in St Thomas's Secondary School on the Whiterock Road, he was appointed to the staff of the College before taking up a lecturing post in the English department at Queen's in 1966.

Professor at Harvard and Oxford, as well as at Queen’s, he received numerous awards for his writing - the TS Eliot Prize (2006), two Whitbred Prizes (1996, 1999), the EM Forster Prize (1975), the Golden Wreath of Poetry (2001), Commandeur de l’Ordre des Artes et Lettres (1996), and the Nobel Prize in Literature (1995), to name but a few.

He is buried in Bellaghy in his native County Derry, in a landscape that resonates profoundly with so much of his poetry. His headstone bears the epitaph "WALK ON AIR AGAINST YOUR BETTER JUDGEMENT".

This portrait by Tai-Shan Schierenberg hangs in the Great Hall at Queen’s where it can be visited during University open hours.

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